Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A.R. Ammons poem "Driving Through"

Driving Through
In the desert midnight I said
taking out my notebook I
    am astonished
though widely travelled having
seen Empire State and Palestine, Texas
and San Miguel de Allende
to mention extremes
and sharpened my pencil on the sole
    of my shoe
The mountains running skidded
over the icy mirages of the moon
and fell down tumbling
    laughing for breath
on the cool dunes
The stone mosaics of the flattest
places (parting lake-gifts) grouped
    in colors and
played games at imagery: a green
tiger with orange eyes, an Orpheus
with moving fingers
    Fontal the shrubs flooded
everything with cool
I sat down against a brimming smoketree
to watch and morning found the
desert reserved
trembling at its hot and rainless task
    Driving through
you would never suspect
the midnight rite or seeing my lonely house
guess it will someday hold
laurel and a friend
in Collected Poems: 1971-1971,
orig. in Corsons Inlet (Cornell U P, 1965)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Marfa Trucks. 73-87 GM. West Texas Vernacular

Okay, love the poems, but it's time to get back to metal. Trucks. Don't know why I like 'em, exactly, but I do. Perhaps it has to do with growing up in an apartment in the middle of a city, with a European father, and living inside a totally truckless culture. They came to symbolize removal, freedom, escape. The trope still has pull. Trucks also mean the West to me. When I worked on a cattle ranch in the Alberta foothills in the 70s I drove a '61 Chevrolet Apache from the ranch to the beer parlour in Sundre, Alberta every Saturday night; and once to the Calgary Stampede. Then Toby Clark and I headed from Alberta to Texas in 1984 in a 1-ton grain truck, a 1952 Chevrolet. Oh I forgot to mention learning to drive when I was 12 in Ste-Marguerite Station, Quebec in a 1952 Chevrolet pickup with a suicide knob and Montana plates.

Now we spend a piece of the year in Marfa, Texas where there's a warm wind, plenty of dust, and no rust, so old trucks around: it's distracting. Here are a few examples of everyday old trucks: West Texas Vernacular Vehicles. All 1973-87 Chevrolets and GMCs, except the handsome 1958 Chevy immediately  below.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Brilliant Careerism, part 10

My new novel The O'Briens will be published in the US March 6 2012 (Pantheon.) Starred review in Publishers Weekly. You can pre-order at Amazon. O’Briens
Peter Behrens. Pantheon, $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-307-37993-1 saga spans the 20th century, from Pontiac County, Quebec, to Venice Beach, Calif., and beyond, through two world wars and countless intimate tragedies, in Behrens’s powerful second novel (after The Law of Dreams). Joe O’Brien, the eldest of five children, takes on the role of patriarch at age 13 when his father is killed in the Boer War and his family struggles to make a life in harsh northern Quebec. Joe’s business savvy, the power he feels in his bloodline, a strong work ethic, and a mentor in a well-traveled local priest help Joe build a lumber business by the time he’s 15. But difficulties remain: their new stepfather, who married their mother six months after their father’s death, molests Joe’s little sisters and hardens all the O’Briens—to his own detriment. This is a family possessed of a “strange, rough beauty,” as the priest describes them, and it’s this dichotomy that keeps them struggling internally long after they leave Pontiac County. Joe wins a construction contract for a railroad project that takes him to the Selkirk mountains of British Columbia and then to Venice, Calif., where, en route to Mexico, he visits his brother, Grattan, and meets Iseult Wilkins, who has just taken the first risk of her life by moving into her own apartment near the Beach. Iseult is soon on friendly terms with not only Grattan and Joe but also their gruff sister Elise, who sells the young woman a camera. By choosing Joe, Iseult welcomes a riskier, messy existence, and what follows, as their children age and the couple grows apart, is just that. Moments of grace and romance are rocked by cruel words and violence in this epic, a piece of rough beauty itself. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Mar.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Detroit Auto Show. Other cities have art fairs...

These billboards were up in Detroit during the auto show in early January. Great to see GM embracing it's heritage instead of driving away from it, too often in something like an Aztek. Can they come up with new cars as wild, dreamlike, & stylish as these bombers but translated into a language that makes sense for a planet waking up to global-warming?  Or has the moment, and the need, passed? Maybe GM and the car industry is no longer in the business of engineering dream machines. Maybe Apple does that for us now. Maybe its all in the cloud. Maybe if you really want to drive something with the crazed feline style of a '59 Impala, you'll have to find yourself a '59 Impala; otherwise, it's Volts,Volts, Volts.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Major Jackson, "Indian Song"

                                                              photograph Jarrod McCabe© 2012
Indian Song

Freddie Hubbard’s playing the cassette deck
forty miles outside Hays and I've looked at
this Kansas sunset for three hours now,
almost bristling as big rigs bounce and grumble
along I-70. At this speed cornfields come
in splotches, murky yellows and greens abutting
the road's shoulder, the flat wealth of the nation whirring by.
It's a kind of ornamentation I've gotten used to—
as in a dream. Espaliered against the sky's blazing—
coud-luffs cascade lace-like darkening whole fields.
30,000 feet above someone is buttering a muffin.
Someone stares at a Skyphone, and momentarily—
a baby’s cry in pressurized air. Through double-paned squares
Someone squints: fields cross-hatched by asphalt-strips.
It is said C├ęzanne looked at a landscape so long he felt
as if his eyes were bleeding. No matter that. I'm heading west.
It's all so redolent, this wailing music, by my side
you fingering fields of light, sunflowers over earth,
miles traveled, a patchwork of goodbyes.
                                                       -Major Jackson

Jackson's latest book is Holding Company (W.W.Norton, 2010)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fireball Roberts

I've always had a thing for 1959 Pontiacs and this is maybe the coolest poncho I've seen. The photo is from the Fireball Roberts website:

From the website: "Tragedy certainly describes the end of the life of Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts..."

The Ford F100 thing

       People are passionate about F100s and I can see why. They are a hardy and good-looking truck. When I worked as landscaper in Banff in the early 1980s we used a beige 1968 F-100. It was a rugged machine that never let us down except for vapor-lock on a hot day. We would head off into the bush with the truck, following the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, digging up small spruce trees from the CPR right-of-way that we would replant as hedges in town.
     "Railways" in Canada are "railroads" in the US.
      I saw this very basic 1982 F-150 on ebay: it's in Maryland, and it's the sort of truck I like: plain clean cheap.
     Then there's this 1969 F100 "Custom Cab" in Oregon that looks like a great truck.
      Saw this 1967 F100 "Custom Cab"  yesterday in Alpine TX: cleanest example of the genre I've see in in a while.

A great thing about the F100 & F150: there are a lot of parts out there. This lineup is in southern Saskatchewan. There's another, very similar, on the edge of our town in W. Texas.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

From the Upriver Bus

("Do you want a little context..bus-rides between Montreal and Fredericton, St. John River Valley winding northward for a western destination (Montreal), the long period before I finally got a driver's license at the age of 44."-BB)

"From the Upriver Bus" 
by Brian Bartlett                    
At a steering wheel wide as a ship’s wheel
he sighs high, comically small.
Unknown others drone downriver, bearing
lumber or livestock, furniture or oil.
His hand, a winter-wrinkled leaf,
floats up toward the windshield.

His hand held up – not for a holdup
with a pistol, but for a greeting
unpremeditated as a kiss – brings him
no cheque, no deer meat, no
rainbow-papered gift on the doorstep.

Like a lone birdwatcher saluting another
if neither thinks he owns the meadowlark, like
a swimmer flinging one word in mid-lake
to a stranger swimming from the opposite shore,
he hardly thinks of the gesture he makes.

When this river country was broken
by a trail a storm could erase, a man
with frost-hooded eyebrows sped along
in a sled, his family half hidden in fur.
Bells of a stranger’s horses
became clearer and clearer.
Gloved hands, calling forth their imminent
gestures, slipped free of reins.

Struck by great waves, two ships warning
or threatening each other
startle the dark with blinking light.


Though early today his bones cried out,
he waves his unmistakable wave
as long as the sun stays above the trees.
Only when no hand answers
from behind the other windshield
does he wonder why he lifts his hand at all.

--from Planet Harbor (Goose Lane editions 1989), reprinted in Wanting the Day : Selected Poems (Goose Lane, 2003)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dodge and Chevrolet Grainers

From our Saskatchewan correspondant, Alex Emond:
Gotta coupla old grainers for you. Couldn't do much driving around when I was in Ponteix because of two sessions of freezing rain and the ensuing ' verglas ' that made it kind of foolhardy to put myself out there . The orange Chevy is for sale, sitting just off Hwy 13 in Kincaid . The Dodge ,which seems to be a few years older , was in Hazenmore. Both have nice lines. 
                                                             Chevrolet 440, 1 1/2 ton, @ 1952?
                Dodge 1 1/2 ton, @1940?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Horny Toad & Road Candy

That is the glamorous BB herself zooming across the Deer Isle Bridge at the wheel of our 1976 GMC Sierra 15 while on a Christmas-season shoot for Santa Barbara-based outfitter, Horny Toad. The photo is up at their blog. Originally bought at Casner Motors in 1976, the GMC was in Marfa until 2010, when we shipped it up to Maine, where it's been ever since. It is available for photo shoots in the Northeast, and our 1986 Chevy Custom Deluxe  (see below) is available for West Texas. Contact:   t718 744 8129

                                                                                   Home, home on the range.

Found a 4x4 edition of the truck for sale in Virginia
                                                                                        1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe: plainest of Janes.   Big Bend N.P.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Big Bend N.P. 
                                                                                                                                   Northern Chihuahua Desert Research Center

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Picasso in Marathon

Visited Marathon, Texas last weekend and found interesting old metal. I like this Ford F600 because it's rugged and plain, without being menacing. Too many trucks these days look like they're designed to be action figures in some superhero movie. Never liked the trucks-on-steroids look. 

I guess the owner of this 1963 Chevrolet 1/2 ton is worried about his machine being stolen so he's chained it to the house. It's a nice truck, and pretty solid, but with those tires it's not going anywhere soon.

A clean F-100, I'm guessing 1975, with what looks like original paint:

A 1961 Beetle:

The Beetle belongs to illustrator Dan Picasso

Dan was working on the engine of his VW bus when we met him at his shop. 

He had a 1955 Oldsmobile and a Ford Galaxie in-progress inside. (It's dusty in West Texas, especially with the drought.)

Back in Marfa that afternoon, the sky cleared, and a peacock was falling in love with the Custom Deluxe: